“Who do you think she was?”

Marie was photographing the spiraling volutes of a broken column. She straightened to look back at Tess, then joined her before the enormous sculpted head resting on the ground. “She’s lovely.”

Tess nodded, dark curls bouncing. “It’s her eyes. She looks like she’s surprised she’s being worshipped.”

“The guidebook says this temple was dedicated to a goddess named—”

“Not the goddess,” Tess interrupted. She took a step forward, leaned across the velvet rope and rested a hand on the statue’s forehead. “Her.”

“The . . . model?” Marie stammered. She started flipping through her guidebook, though she knew it would be useless. “I don’t . . . I’m not sure,” she trailed off. Tess wasn’t really expecting an answer anyway. Marie felt a familiar heartache, wishing that her friend’s expression of wonder might be directed at her instead of a statue.

“Who were you looking at?” Tess asked the marble.

“You,” Marie whispered. “It’s always been you.”

Tess turned sharply, “Did you—”

“I—I wasn’t . . .”

But in that brief moment, with Marie’s guard down, Tess had glimpsed love. It filled her: radiant, expansive, beautiful. She gasped. Anyone looking at Tess at that moment might have believed they witnessed the divine.

* * *

Photo by Jiannis Tsiliakis on Unsplash

Story by Gregory M. Fox